Jeff Van Gundy, Houston Rockets head coach Jeff Van Gundy must be getting a lot more sleep now that all-star baller Tracy McGrady has joined the Rockets. Gone are his signature darkened eyes, which made him look like he hadn't slept since Houston won its last title in '95. Also gone is his hair flap -- one of the greatest comb-overs in sports history. It would come undone during sideline rants at officials and the occasional New York Knicks or Miami Heat brawl. Naturally, we were a bit sad to see him trim it for his recent stint as a TV analyst. Still, we have to say cheers, Jeff. You no longer have 12 inches of hair wrapped over your scalp. Here's wishing you a happy return to your, er, roots.

Palace Bowling Lanes
Palace Lanes It was the great Walter Sobchak who said, "Smokey, this is not Nam. This is bowling. There are rules." At Palace Lanes, the only rule is this: Have fun. And with 44 lanes and cool-colored balls, it's impossible not to. You won't pay an arm and a leg for the privilege,, either: With special rates for kids and seniors, families can escape the summer heat and kill a few hours without breaking the bank. In between spares, you can refuel with a beer, burger, pizza or other munchies from the menu. The Palace also offers rent-a-lane specials and the requisite "midnight madness" deal ($40 for six players for two hours). Just stay away from the guy with "Jesus" embroidered on his pink bodysuit.

Palace Lanes It was the great Walter Sobchak who said, "Smokey, this is not Nam. This is bowling. There are rules." At Palace Lanes, the only rule is this: Have fun. And with 44 lanes and cool-colored balls, it's impossible not to. You won't pay an arm and a leg for the privilege,, either: With special rates for kids and seniors, families can escape the summer heat and kill a few hours without breaking the bank. In between spares, you can refuel with a beer, burger, pizza or other munchies from the menu. The Palace also offers rent-a-lane specials and the requisite "midnight madness" deal ($40 for six players for two hours). Just stay away from the guy with "Jesus" embroidered on his pink bodysuit.

Houston Texans cheerleaders When it was announced that Houston would finally get another franchise in 2001, we were ready. We were ready for dominant defense to punish quarterbacks and intimidate opposing teams. We were ready to take it to the Dallas Cowboys. And we were ready for new cheerleaders. The arrival of the Houston Texans cheerleaders was so glorious we soon forgot the old Oilers' Derrick Dolls. Our ladies are downright graceful as they show off their midriffs and flash smiles brighter than Reliant's stadium lights. And not to be outdone by the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, they've even had their mini-scandals, with one of the members being kicked off the squad for fraternizing with a player. Thanks to these gals, we're always ready for some football.

Houston Texans cheerleaders When it was announced that Houston would finally get another franchise in 2001, we were ready. We were ready for dominant defense to punish quarterbacks and intimidate opposing teams. We were ready to take it to the Dallas Cowboys. And we were ready for new cheerleaders. The arrival of the Houston Texans cheerleaders was so glorious we soon forgot the old Oilers' Derrick Dolls. Our ladies are downright graceful as they show off their midriffs and flash smiles brighter than Reliant's stadium lights. And not to be outdone by the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, they've even had their mini-scandals, with one of the members being kicked off the squad for fraternizing with a player. Thanks to these gals, we're always ready for some football.

Jeff Van Gundy In these, basketball's showbiz days, Jeff Van Gundy doesn't look like a typical NBA coach -- he's a schlumpy bald guy with a permanent hangdog look whose idea of glamour is probably going for Wish-Bone salad dressing instead of the store brand. But looks are deceiving. Not only did Van Gundy lead the Rockets to the playoffs for the first time in, approximately, ever, he did it with a direct, blunt style that was completely refreshing in these days of coddling superstars. Not only did he call out star guard Steve Francis for missing a road trip, he stuck to his story that Francis had opted instead to go to the Super Bowl, even after Stevie Franchise's people tried to spin their way out of the claim. When the Rockets started a losing streak that put their playoff spot in jeopardy, Van Gundy didn't say anything about "taking it one game at a time"; instead, he said the team was on the verge of a "historic collapse." He doesn't bark this stuff out in mad-dog Lou Piniella style; he just matter-of-factly calls it like he sees it. As he said after one dispiriting early-season loss, "What am I supposed to say, 'Wow, we're busting our asses out there?' We're not."

Jeff Van Gundy In these, basketball's showbiz days, Jeff Van Gundy doesn't look like a typical NBA coach -- he's a schlumpy bald guy with a permanent hangdog look whose idea of glamour is probably going for Wish-Bone salad dressing instead of the store brand. But looks are deceiving. Not only did Van Gundy lead the Rockets to the playoffs for the first time in, approximately, ever, he did it with a direct, blunt style that was completely refreshing in these days of coddling superstars. Not only did he call out star guard Steve Francis for missing a road trip, he stuck to his story that Francis had opted instead to go to the Super Bowl, even after Stevie Franchise's people tried to spin their way out of the claim. When the Rockets started a losing streak that put their playoff spot in jeopardy, Van Gundy didn't say anything about "taking it one game at a time"; instead, he said the team was on the verge of a "historic collapse." He doesn't bark this stuff out in mad-dog Lou Piniella style; he just matter-of-factly calls it like he sees it. As he said after one dispiriting early-season loss, "What am I supposed to say, 'Wow, we're busting our asses out there?' We're not."

Larry Dierker Color commentators are often former players or managers. Good ones have a background in the game and can tell the listener or viewer what's going on in the minds of the players and explain the strategy. This year, Houston Astros fans are lucky. This year, the Astros welcomed back Larry Dierker to the broadcast booth. Dierker is a special kind of color commentator. He's a former player. He's a former manager. He's a newspaper columnist and an author. He knows the game well. He has a passion for it. Whenever he speaks, the viewer is educated. Even the lifelong fan learns something when Dierker works a game. Dierker's skills are such that he's even worked games on the networks (NBC and ABC when they had the Major League Baseball package), and in past years, the occasional game on Fox. Unfortunately, the Astros have yet to bring Dierker back full time. He's just a fill-in, working a schedule only Roger Clemens could love. So, Astros, finish the job and bring Larry Dierker back full time.

Larry Dierker Color commentators are often former players or managers. Good ones have a background in the game and can tell the listener or viewer what's going on in the minds of the players and explain the strategy. This year, Houston Astros fans are lucky. This year, the Astros welcomed back Larry Dierker to the broadcast booth. Dierker is a special kind of color commentator. He's a former player. He's a former manager. He's a newspaper columnist and an author. He knows the game well. He has a passion for it. Whenever he speaks, the viewer is educated. Even the lifelong fan learns something when Dierker works a game. Dierker's skills are such that he's even worked games on the networks (NBC and ABC when they had the Major League Baseball package), and in past years, the occasional game on Fox. Unfortunately, the Astros have yet to bring Dierker back full time. He's just a fill-in, working a schedule only Roger Clemens could love. So, Astros, finish the job and bring Larry Dierker back full time.

Astros outfield deck We see George and Barbara down there near home plate, a looming, presidential presence behind every televised pitch. They don't know what they're missing. Way up here in the nosebleed section, we've got the whole damn north 40 to ourselves. We can stretch out and curse without offending small children. And since the seats set us back only five bucks, that leaves lots of cash for beer and dogs. And more cursing. If only the team on the field looked as consistently pretty as the skyline out the left-field window, this would be heaven (of course, it seems like we're already at that altitude anyhow).

Best Of Houston®

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